With the NHL lockout leaving the Chicago Blackhawks season on thin ice, the team's president and CEO found another way to keep busy Thursday and lend a hand for a good cause.
John McDonough worked the afternoon shift at the People's Resource Center in Wheaton helping families in need shop for fresh produce and other groceries at the nonprofit group's food pantry.
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Several other members of the Blackhawks front office also were on hand.
"We have to make the most of the situation that we have right now, and we have an inordinate amount of time," McDonough said. "It's all hands on deck and let's do the most we can to enhance other people's holiday seasons."
McDonough, who has said he's taken a "bulldozer on steroids" approach to operations, echoed that intensity when describing the Blackhawks' partnerships with similar programs in the area.
"I think that's going to be a bigger part of our organization, something that's going to strengthen the Chicago Blackhawks," he said.
"Since the start of what would have been the hockey season, we've had almost weekly visits with different partners throughout the city and the suburbs, which is kind of a new initiative given our situation," said Brandon Faber, senior director of communications and community relations for the team.
McDonough also talked hockey with fans, including 39-year-old Greg Kozi, who shopped for his Naperville family.
"He thinks he's a pretty good fourth liner, but I said 'right now would not be the time to sign you,'" McDonough said. "A lot of people here, they know quite a bit about the Blackhawks. I was surprised and very, very flattered. I think we have been able to make some very beneficial strides through all this."
Kozi said he played center in local pickup games and soaked up the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup win in 2010. He said he's been a client of the food pantry for a short time.
"It's a great support for us," said Kozi, the father of a 3-year-old. "I'm trying to get back on my feet."
Last year, the food pantry served almost 8,000 families. On Thursday, volunteers worked to support clients at a time of peak demand for the pantry's services. An hour break usually separates the morning and afternoon shifts, but volunteers from earlier in the day worked until nearly 1 p.m., volunteer coordinator Lisa Doyle said.
"We're closed for the week between Christmas and New Year's, so we're trying to accommodate 3,500 households in the span of the three short weeks," Doyle said. "It's just been standing room only all day, so to have the extra help from the Blackhawks staff has been a huge, huge, help."
McDonough pledged to continue the outreach, and not just during the work stoppage.
"Hopefully, we'll be able to be invited back, and I might even encourage some of my family members to come here and volunteer," he said.